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merciful-evans

ebony fingerboards

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I was perusing Peach Guitars (uk) site yesterday, and was surprised at how many guitars are now being offered with ebony fingerboards. I am very partial to ebony FBs for purely practical reasons, so am always on the look out for them.

Last time I checked, most ebony types were still endangered species. I was used to seeing them used by mainly smaller builders. But there are at least 13 brands (including Gretch, Schecter, Ibanez etc.) with at least 32 models. I say 'at least' because the Peach search filter does not find all their ebony FB guitars. eg: It shows the Gibson LP Modern but not the Gibson LP Custom. 

These are some big companies. Maybe its still a smaller range of models, but it looks a significant increase to me.

This link doesn't show a date, but a reply was 11 months ago. 

https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/ebony-dark-outlook-dark-woods/

This one is 2018 showing Taylors Cameroon sawmill

https://www.taylorguitars.com/ebonyproject/ 

 

 

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i have a Telecaster with an Ebony board and a Martin with an Ebony board.  Both stupid expensive man do they feel nice.  

rct

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Les Paul Customs have great looking and feeling ebony boards  have a 57 Custom RI and has the tightest grain when you polish it, it has a super smoothness to it. I have 5 guitars that have ebony boards. To me just another fretboard material to get particular about sound. I like other materials just the same in that regard. They look real nice IMHO as to most other fretboards. But Gibson kind of knocks it our the park with those beautiful big block inlays to complement an ebony board. It’s hard to get much better if you ask me. 

-typos courtesy of iPhone 

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I don't know how much this is having an effect so far on availability of ebony, but about 5 years ago Taylor partnered with an international distributor to harvest and replant trees in Cameroon.  Taylor did away with just using the purest black ebony and started using the wood with streaks running through it that has more of a brownish tint. 

gdwwpGj.jpg  A lot of this type of wood was just being wasted before.

Our thoughts about great shortages of Ebony might be our familiarity with Gibson's problems with S.I.T.E.S. and the raiding of their factory etc.  But the scarcity certainly does seem to keep the prices up on guitars with ebony boards.      

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Ebony has been dyed for many years AFAIK.  Streaked or un-dyed ebony is becoming more used now.  Macassar is generally stripier than Gaboon  which is often dyed.  

Slightly off topic; I recently learned that hornbeam and lignum vitae are both known as 'ironwood' as they are very hard to work.  

I have 5 with ebony boards at the moment, 3 of those with 24 frets.  Luxurious.

Edited by jdgm

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I've 4 ebony boards but they're all on hobby guitars. It would be nice to have one on a working guitar (That said, it would be even nicer to have some work!).

The youngest of those has slight streaks in it. That doesn't trouble me in the least. 

Considering that all species are either in the Endangered or Vulnerable categories, it just surprises me how much is being used in production now. 

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4 hours ago, merciful-evans said:

I've 4 ebony boards but they're all on hobby guitars. It would be nice to have one on a working guitar (That said, it would be even nicer to have some work!).

The youngest of those has slight streaks in it. That doesn't trouble me in the least. 

Considering that all species are either in the Endangered or Vulnerable categories, it just surprises me how much is being used in production now. 

Well it is weird yes..  Throughout the whole CITES Rosewood scandal where you needed a certificate to send a guitar with a Rosewood fretboard on it you needed no such thing for Ebony ever..  However the CITES thing has gone away for musical instruments now as it was just a huge mistake really. No one had thought about the real implications of it before and even more silly is that most of the Rosewood used on guitars all came from plantations where the wood is very carefully controlled and documented anyway..

The only real reason I can even think of that they dont do that with Ebony is the sad fact that we (humans) wiped out Ebony from almost every country that had it because they would only use the solid black stuff and would burn the rest of it. So so sad. So all the Ebony now only comes from one place and can be easily controlled. And if it wernt for Bob Taylors efforts we may have seen a total ban on it by now??

I currently have four fretboards for builds...  And it makes it really painful when I make a mistake too.. When that does happen I generally keep the wood for use as stuff like trussrod covers or when I need some ebony dust for something or use it as a support when clamping a glued fretboard down or something like that..

Spot the mistake  😞

jGqyvWJ.jpg

Very beautiful tight grained stuff

RynZmuq.jpg

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17 minutes ago, Rabs said:

Well it is weird yes..  Throughout the whole CITES Rosewood scandal where you needed a certificate to send a guitar with a Rosewood fretboard on it you needed no such thing for Ebony ever..  However the CITES thing has gone away for musical instruments now as it was just a huge mistake really. No one had thought about the real implications of it before and even more silly is that most of the Rosewood used on guitars all came from plantations where the wood is very carefully controlled and documented anyway..

The only real reason I can even think of that they dont do that with Ebony is the sad fact that we (humans) wiped out Ebony from almost every country that had it because they would only use the solid black stuff and would burn the rest of it. So so sad. So all the Ebony now only comes from one place and can be easily controlled. And if it wernt for Bob Taylors efforts we may have seen a total ban on it by now??

I currently have four fretboards for builds...  And it makes it really painful when I make a mistake too.. When that does happen I generally keep the wood for use as stuff like trussrod covers or when I need some ebony dust for something or use it as a support when clamping a glued fretboard down or something like that..

Spot the mistake  😞

jGqyvWJ.jpg

Very beautiful tight grained stuff

RynZmuq.jpg

 

oh.... I see what you mean. That must be galling. Splits are one reason I found carpentry frustrating.

But its wonderful stuff though. My oldest guitar (an early 70s Fylde Oberon) has an ebony board that is still in pristine condition. Other than clean it with a moist cloth, I've never used anything on it. It has no cracks & no visible wear. 

 

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4 minutes ago, merciful-evans said:

 

oh.... I see what you mean. That must be galling. Splits are one reason I found carpentry frustrating.

But its wonderful stuff though. My oldest guitar (an early 70s Fylde Oberon) has an ebony board that is still in pristine condition. Other than clean it with a moist cloth, I've never used anything on it. It has no cracks & no visible wear. 

 

No..  Theres nothing wrong with any of the wood at all...

It was just a total momentary lapse of reason. It was the first time I had gone to do any guitar work in years and I didnt even realise until I finished the first one...  Its on the second fret space rather than the third 😞 DOH!!! Never done that before ever...

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My D-41, D-18, 000-28 all have them. And I think the J12-16GT has Madagascar Ebony. Its got strippes.

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3 hours ago, Rabs said:

No..  Theres nothing wrong with any of the wood at all...

It was just a total momentary lapse of reason. It was the first time I had gone to do any guitar work in years and I didnt even realise until I finished the first one...  Its on the second fret space rather than the third 😞 DOH!!! Never done that before ever...

 

I thought the lower end had split away on the 2nd pic.  Obviously you have surplus material then. If that 2nd fret inlay is the bottom of 1st pic, I cant see the end of the board. 

Those inlays must be time consuming. All done the old fashioned way. I hope you'll do another pic story of you next build too.

 

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2 hours ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

My D-41, D-18, 000-28 all have them. And I think the J12-16GT has Madagascar Ebony. Its got strippes.

 

Probably that's whats on my Hofner archtop too. Is the J12-16GT louder than the others? 

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2 hours ago, sparquelito said:

My 2001 Les Paul Studio copper-top had an ebony fingerboard. 

I loved it. 

🙂

x100_1483_v_1469781018.jpg.pagespeed.ic.

 

Oh my! You let that one go?! I didnt know Gibson did any LPs without inlays. Those are what I like best of all.

BTW Is that a SD of some sort in the bridge position?

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16 minutes ago, merciful-evans said:

 

Probably that's whats on my Hofner archtop too. Is the J12-16GT louder than the others? 

More strings than the others 

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14 hours ago, merciful-evans said:

 

Oh my! You let that one go?! I didnt know Gibson did any LPs without inlays. Those are what I like best of all.

BTW Is that a SD of some sort in the bridge position?


Yessir, I did let that copper-top beauty go. 
Probably not my best move. 

I had a friend whose band  shared the stage with us at an outdoor sports fest a few years in a row. 
Great guitar player, Derriel Theriot, a dyed-in-the-wool Telecaster player. 

He asked about my Les Paul, and what sort of sounds could it offer that a Tele could not. 
I replied, "Well, it's complicated. Why don't you borrow it for a week, and have fun with it. Explore the humbucking tones, and then maybe you'll want one of your own some day."

So he borrowed it, and by the end of the week, he called and asked, "Oh man. Would you consider selling me this one?  It is so great!"

As it happened, I needed the cash, and was looking to downsize. 

I feel good about it. 
Derriel plays that guitar all the time, alternating with his Telecasters, in his Praise Band at church. 
And he keeps it immaculate. Very shiny, like brand new. 

merciful-evans, that is a Seymour Duncan Dimebucker humbucker in the bridge there. 
A previous owner installed it. 
Really nice pickup!!

😉
 

Edited by sparquelito
Misspelling
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5 hours ago, Rabs said:

Well it is weird yes..  Throughout the whole CITES Rosewood scandal where you needed a certificate to send a guitar with a Rosewood fretboard on it you needed no such thing for Ebony ever..  However the CITES thing has gone away for musical instruments now as it was just a huge mistake really. No one had thought about the real implications of it before and even more silly is that most of the Rosewood used on guitars all came from plantations where the wood is very carefully controlled and documented anyway..

 

I think the most important thing that came out of that whole stupid CITES mess was the use of words, they did fix that.  If the only way they could accomplish that was to bust somebody hard for diddling around with wood, well then it was a good thing.

When I was a kid a guitar was made of Mahogany.  Or Rosewood.  Alder.  Ash.  Whatever.  After the great renaisance of Guitars As Consumer Goods of the early 90's, the ever downward spiral of Price Point retail caused a need for ever cheaper to put together guitars.

So wood that we would never have considered buying as guitar players started to appear.  African Mahogany.  East African Black Mahogany.  West African Red Mahogany.  Central American Mahogany.  Mexican Mahogany, Mexican Rosewood, Peruvian Rosewood.  And on and on.

These woods have names.  Nato, Siris, Ovankgol, Cocobolo, Limba, Padauk, Pau Ferro, Bubinga, Basswood, Granadillo, Ziricote,  etc.

But nobody wanted to use those words because guitar players are a notoriously fickle, traditional, standard, Do It Like We Did Yesterday group of people.  My early 2000's expensive Taylor was made of, at the time, African Mahogany.  I had it a year, gigged it a few months, put it in the case, traded it as soon as I could.  The body felt like, and when you knocked on it, sounded like plastic.  Today they sell the same guitar, and other companies use the same wood, it is Ovangkol.  If they had put that name on it back then I probably would have passed.  Today I am much older and wiser and that doesn't bother me at all, I'm just not a big fan of Taylors.

So if they used the CITES crap to tidy up the Slim Shady use of words to tell the consumer what the guitar was made of, that's a good thing.  We see these words all the time now, I've been looking at a Martin made of Siris.  Cheap.  Well, for them it is.  But that was the whole point back then, cheaper to get, more plentiful, but not named the way we want.  So they dinked around with names until they(probably) got in trouble for it.  All of them did, not just Gibson or Fender.  You can do a lot in the name of marketing, including nearly lie about what the material is.

When I was a kid a guitar was wood or it was plywood.  What do we have today?  "Mahogany composite", "Layered", "Fine Veneer".  That's the word games used because for some reason if you don't call it plywood it isn't plywood.  But...it is.  Koa is something I'd never pay for, so Martin realizes that about a lot of guitar players and is making Koa Fine Veneer.  I'm fine with that, and I'm fine with Koa Plywood, I'd still buy it if it was a good guitar.

Which brings me out of breath to what I should have said in my first post.  You can put all the Ebony you want on a brick, it's still a brick.  My two Ebony boarded guitars are just fantastic, well put together, great sounding guitars no matter what the board is made of.  The ebony doesn't make them great any more than just having a rosewood board or (god forbid) richlite by any name would make them bricks, the guitar is the sum of the parts.

I'm exhausted.

rct

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2 hours ago, rct said:

I'm exhausted.

rct

 

I'm not surprised!

 

To me ebony is slightly zingier than rosewood but....it's probably subjective.

I always liked the substitution of "chromyte" for balsa wood.

With wooden musical instruments.....the whole 'tonewood' bit depends on it being old, well-seasoned or carefully dried wood, and well made....as much as whatever wood it is made of.  IMO.

 

Edited by jdgm

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I bought my last les paul studio because i was looking for one with an ebony fretboard,as an added bonus the fretboard had no inlays on it.

B4134-F21-5-C6-B-46-D0-8-A64-5-E14-EC36-

 

 

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2 hours ago, rct said:

 

I think the most important thing that came out of that whole stupid CITES mess was the use of words, they did fix that.  If the only way they could accomplish that was to bust somebody hard for diddling around with wood, well then it was a good thing.

When I was a kid a guitar was made of Mahogany.  Or Rosewood.  Alder.  Ash.  Whatever.  After the great renaisance of Guitars As Consumer Goods of the early 90's, the ever downward spiral of Price Point retail caused a need for ever cheaper to put together guitars.

So wood that we would never have considered buying as guitar players started to appear.  African Mahogany.  East African Black Mahogany.  West African Red Mahogany.  Central American Mahogany.  Mexican Mahogany, Mexican Rosewood, Peruvian Rosewood.  And on and on.

These woods have names.  Nato, Siris, Ovankgol, Cocobolo, Limba, Padauk, Pau Ferro, Bubinga, Basswood, Granadillo, Ziricote,  etc

Which brings me out of breath to what I should have said in my first post.  You can put all the Ebony you want on a brick, it's still a brick.  My two Ebony boarded guitars are just fantastic, well put together, great sounding guitars no matter what the board is made of.  The ebony doesn't make them great any more than just having a rosewood board or (god forbid) richlite by any name would make them bricks, the guitar is the sum of the parts.

I'm exhausted.

rct

Yes I agree and have experienced it myself with my own builds.. I have used Utile (youtilly) many times. I gave up after a while of calling it Utile and then watching the total confusion of the customer.. So in the end I just call it African Mahogany which people seem to understand better and it makes my life a bit easier.. So I dont mind the more generic term as long as they arent pretending its South American Mahogany.. I am pretty sure I have seen Gibson using Sapele, they just then call it Mahogany which is true but possibly misleading for a company who is known for using South American Mahognay. The stupid thing is that African Mahogany is much stronger than the South American stuff and actually much better for the use of say a neck for strength. South American Mahogany is about 750/800 on the Janka hardness scale where African is more like 1200 (hard Maple is 1400 for reference). So its actually makes more sense to use it anyway.

Being a wood fanatic I have no issues in using the correct name for each species but there are a lot of them and it can get rather confusing when you see examples of different species that look the same. It happens at work sometimes when we have say  Hornbeam and some Splated Beech which are both white with black streaks.. Really hard to tell the difference by looking at it alone. The give away for me on that is the weight so thats how you tell in the end (horbeam being much heavier), or by sticking you face right up close to the wood and examining the grain.. Even then its hard to tell sometimes.

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4 hours ago, merciful-evans said:

 

I thought the lower end had split away on the 2nd pic.  Obviously you have surplus material then. If that 2nd fret inlay is the bottom of 1st pic, I cant see the end of the board. 

Those inlays must be time consuming. All done the old fashioned way. I hope you'll do another pic story of you next build too.

 

Yeah its that bottom board..  And yes it takes ages to do it this way with just a chisel and some scalpels..  I do have a dremel and stuff to do it that way, I just never have for some reason BUT I got a bit bored doing it this way so I am going to finish doing them with the dremel, hopefully soon.......I am giving up working at the timber yard in two weeks (cant wait) and will hopefully, probably start doing my guitars again. This time around though I am going to change things a bit in what I make..  And I now have  access to the most amazing English hardwood to use for my builds so am looking forward to getting back to that.  Yeah, I will do a thread or two as long as the current regime lets me  🙂

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13 hours ago, rct said:

Which brings me out of breath to what I should have said in my first post.  You can put all the Ebony you want on a brick, it's still a brick.  My two Ebony boarded guitars are just fantastic, well put together, great sounding guitars no matter what the board is made of.  The ebony doesn't make them great any more than just having a rosewood board or (god forbid) richlite by any name would make them bricks, the guitar is the sum of the parts.

 

Certainly. But as I said in the OP I prefer ebony FBs for purely practical reasons. Ebony can take all the abuse of my physiology and poor technique. Rosewood cannot. 

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3 hours ago, merciful-evans said:

 

Certainly. But as I said in the OP I prefer ebony FBs for purely practical reasons. Ebony can take all the abuse of my physiology and poor technique. Rosewood cannot. 

 

What does your physiology and poor technique do to rosewood if you don't mind me asking?

rct

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